‘Cocaine’ conman back on campus

WITS’ cocaine conman has struck again, this time swindling a student out of his Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

On Tuesday morning John Kelm* was approached by a man near the Planetarium at about 10:30am. Kelm said the man had a Nigerian accent and asked if he could use Kelm’s phone to call a friend to pick him up. The man made the phone call and told Kelm that his friend would call him back on Kelm’s phone.

After this, the man produced two small bags of “cocaine” and said that he was going to sell it to the man he had spoken to on the phone. The man then said he needed to take Kelm’s phone with him to go and meet his buyer, and that Kelm should hold onto the second bag of cocaine as proof that his phone would be returned.

Kelm refused the offer and the man responded by threatening him with a knife and then left with Kelm’s phone. He opened the packet to find that the “cocaine” was white flour. Kelm tried to run after the man, but he had fled.

The Conman

Kelm described the man as being 1.75 metres tall and very well built. He also had a tattoo on his right shoulder. Kelm reported the theft to Campus Control and was told a similar incident had happened on east campus two days prior.

“They described the man to me, and it was the exact description,” Kelm said. The clearly frustrated student said he did not understand how the man was able to get onto campus. “Why aren’t they (Campus Control) doing anything about it?” asked Kelm.

Campus Control head of investigations Michael Mahada told Wits Vuvuzela that the matter had been handed over to Hillbrow police and the white substance would be chemically analysed.

The con

Campus Control investigations officer Luvuyo Zitwana told Wits Vuvuzela that the cocaine con was increasingly common on campus with at least seven thefts of cellphones in the past year.

He said many more thefts likely go unreported by students. Wits Vuvuzela was shown security footage of the conman and of the actual cocaine con going down.

In the video, the conman is seen asking a student to borrow his phone. He then makes a phone call and waits for his ‘friend’ to call him back. In actual fact, the conman has called his own phone, set to silent and sitting in his own pocket.

He then slips his own phone out of his pocket and, with his hand hidden, calls back the victims phone. This makes it appear that entire phone conversation is legitimate. In the security footage Wits Vuvuzela viewed, the man is seen operating at John Moffat and Chamber of Mines.

Previous incidents

Last year, Wits Vuvuzela reported that “I’ve lost my phone” stories similar to the cocaine con were one of the popular methods of theft on campus.

The conmen target students with the latest cellphones, such as Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. In one case, the white powdered substance a conman used was found to be mealie-meal.

At the time, it was estimated that 50% of those arrested for theft were Wits students. Theft at laundry facilities in residences was particularly common.

Campus Control also stressed that non-students who gained illegal entry were responsible for many of the crimes on campus.

Lost or stolen student cards should be reported and blocked, and students should refrain from swiping in non-students. *not his real name

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